(7 March 1802 – 1 October 1873)
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer was an English painter and sculptor, well known for his paintings of animals, especially horses, dogs and deer. His most famous works are the lion sculptures at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.
He was born in London and was considered a kind of prodigy whose artistic talents were recognized from a very young age. At the age of 13 he exhibited works at the Royal Academy. He was elected an Associate at the age of 24 and an Academician five years later in 1831.
Landseer was a notable figure in 19th-century British art and his works can be found at Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kenwood House and the Wallace Collection in London. Landseer’s popularity in Victorian Britain was considerable and his reputation as an animal painter was unrivaled.
One of the earliest paintings of him is credited as the origin of the myth that Saint Bernard rescue dogs of the Alps carry a small barrel of brandy on their collars.
Queen Victoria commissioned numerous images from the artist. He initially painted various royal pets, then moved on to portraits. He taught both Victoria and Albert to engrave and made portraits of Victoria’s children as young children, usually in the company of a dog. So popular and influential were Landseer’s dog paintings that his surname became the official name for the variety of Newfoundland dogs which, rather than being black or mostly black, feature a mix of black and white.
It was this variety that Landseer popularized in paintings of him celebrating Newfoundland as water rescue dogs. In 1858 the government commissioned Landseer to make four bronze lions for the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, made in the Kensington studio of Carlo Marochetti. Work was slowed down by Landseer’s poor health and his irritable relationship with Marochetti. The sculptures were installed in 1867.